Darren Swift AKA 'Swifty'.
Darren competing on his Snow BoardFrom AFPST Website – Armed Forces Para- Snowsport Team https://afpst.co.uk/ Darren Swift – An Athlete, Adviser and Inventor. Former Green Jacket, ‘Swifty’ talks about his time on the slopes…. As an athlete and mentor, double, above knee amputee ‘Swifty’ has achieved enormous success on the snow. “The charity has enabled me to make new friends in a group of like-minded people – an opportunity which is just as important as any new-found skills on the slopes”.

Darren with His Snow Board”The AFPST has shown me that there is always more to be squeezed out of life. I would encourage others to come and have a go. There’s such a sense of community and a healthy rivalry between the disciplines. Being part of the team has inspired me to keep reaching onwards and upwards.” Seventeen years ago, bindings that would enable above knee amputees to snow board did not exist. Working alongside his good friend and co-founder Dale Rennard, the pair have created a solution that promises to revolutionise the para-snowboarding world. “The AFPST has helped me to re-energise binding development by providing the necessary connections to sponsors who have made further advancement possible. Already we have a tested and proven the design concept of suspension in bindings. We are now working out how to make them lighter, more ergonomic and cheaper to produce. What’s more, we hope to be riding them by the end of the season”.

Darren Airboun on his snow boardExtract edited from Darren’s own website.
During my recovery and rehab I realised I had a stark decision to make - put my chin on my chest and do nothing or - pick my chin up and crack on with life and whatever maybe in front of me. Chin up seemed the obvious and only choice and since then I've set myself and achieved a huge number of goals. Some of which included travelling around the world taking part and leading expeditions both with teams, such as The 1997 Coppermine River Expedition in the Canadian Arctic, and on solo projects, like Hand-cycling across Iceland. Others included becoming a Skydiver and receiving a Gold Medal at the 2003 British Skydiving Championships and more recently, focussing on snowboarding.

I've also been fortunate enough to join and volunteer with organisations such as Blesma, The Not Forgotten Association, the Royal British Legion and The Soldiers Charity (ABF). Mentoring soldiers from the wounded, injured and sick community to return to an active and fulfilling, albeit slightly different, life has been and still is hugely rewarding. I set my sights on the Banked Slalom competition of the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang. I trained for over 2 years, climbing the rankings to 11th from 17th in the allocated IPC classification I was placed in.

The bindings used to train for PyeongChang did not have any suspension, every bump transferred up my legs and into my pelvis and spine. This caused me to scratch off speed to reduce longer term spinal/pelvic damage, racing smart ultimately meant not racing fast enough to get the speeds to qualify for Team GB.

In Breckenridge, Colorado in Dec 2019 we concluded testing of the world’s first pair of 3D printed, suspended snow board bindings for double above knee amputees. The data that we have got is incredibly encouraging. This is seriously 'upping the ante' and the potential to chip away at those times is huge.

From BLESMA Website - https://blesma.org/
Darren Swift (Swifty) was injured by an IRA bomb in May 1991 while serving with the Army’s Dog Unit in Belfast. “It was a typically grey, overcast Belfast day. I was working with the Army Dog Unit and was feeding my dog Troy when two members of the IRA threw a coffee jar bomb at me. It instantly killed my colleague and good mate, Geordie. I was blown to the floor. I felt shocked – like I’d been cuffed around the head. But, weirdly, I wasn’t in any pain”. He went through 18 months of recovery at Woolwich Hospital and Headley Court before being offered the chance to stay in the Army. He opted to be discharged in 1992. Swifty is now using his incredible story to inspire and motivate others in a new project devised by Blesma where injured servicemen and women are delivering talks to schools about overcoming adversity.

In 2016 Darren was starring in a revival of Chip Hardy’s ‘Blue on Blue’ and was interviewed by Daisy Bowie-Sell for ‘What’s on Stage’ https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/darren-swift-acing-and-military-blue-on-blue_40269.html - Extracts Edited for SCAN’s newsletter

“It was my choice to discharge from the army. I did some travelling and I fell into film and TV extra work. In those days people with disabilities weren't widely seen in that arena. I started with some horror and war films.…… but then I was extremely fortunate to get a part in a play at the National Theatre called Travelling Light with Sir Anthony Sher. I played someone whose legs had been sawn off in an accident.

Then, I was part of The Two Worlds of Charlie F company touring a play, written by Owen Sheers, and based upon the experiences of wounded and injured service personnel from Afghanistan, which played in the West End and on a big tour…..

I get typecast I'm quite happy with that. I can appear to be able-bodied as long as there's not too much movement involved. I have leg prosthetics. But I am a double amputee. It's blatantly obvious so that's what I'm happy with. The industry - TV and film as well - is getting much better at casting people with disabilities. Certainly at places like the National Theatre.

The biggest disability issues I've faced is Access to Theatres. Some of the old ones are lovely to work in and they are fantastic places but there's access issues if you're using a wheelchair or if you've got a mobility issue. But I do understand some of the old theatres can't be touched because they are listed buildings. The Richmond Theatre was one where there was no parking at all, so we all had to walk/wheel in every day and the backstage was so small that myself and two other cast members had to take our wheelchairs apart to move across from stage left to stage right (backstage) and negotiate two flights of stairs. The owners tried to bill us for chipping the paintwork on the dressing room doors that were too small for access, we didn’t pay!!.

Finding suitable accommodation is also a bind so I generally go for a Premier Inn or a Travelodge as the ‘Digs’ used by others are not accessible or suitable. I usually prefer to travel independently and drive as much as I can for convenience, I have hand controls on my car. I try to avoid public transport as I find it inconvenient and unreliable.

Darren also takes part in ‘casualty simulations’ to teach military and emergency service personnel how to respond in critical situations.